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Real vs. Artificial: What’s the Most Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree?

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The Most Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree

If you’re trying to make your Christmas more sustainable, you might be looking at your Christmas tree and wondering if you’re making the eco-friendly choice. Learn more about the environmental impacts of both real and artificial Christmas trees so you can select the most eco-friendly Christmas tree.

The Debate Over an Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree

Every year, millions of people will put a Christmas tree in their home to celebrate the holidays. Some trees will be real, and some will be artificial.

If you’re trying to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, you might be having an inner debate this year. Is it more eco-friendly to cut down a live tree that you’ll eventually throw away, or is it better to buy an artificial tree that you can use again and again?

While you always hear that reusable is better than disposable when it comes to the environment, the answer to the most eco-friendly Christmas tree question might surprise you.

Related: Where to Get the Best Tree-Free Christmas Cards

Artificial Christmas Trees

Artificial Christmas trees are made from metal and plastic, which means they take a lot of resources and energy to produce. Additionally, it’s almost impossible to recycle an artificial Christmas tree.

Many artificial trees are also made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a known carcinogen and one of the most environmentally damaging types of petroleum-derived plastic.

If that wasn’t bad enough, lead is often used as a stabilizer in PVC, which means your fake Christmas tree may be shedding lead dust on your Christmas presents. And that’s certainly not something you want young children exposed to.

What’s even scarier is that lead isn’t just found on fake Christmas trees. One study of 10 store-bought face paints discovered lead in all of them, which is why I always make easy homemade natural face paint.

China manufactures the majority of fake Christmas trees. This means you also have to figure in the carbon footprint of shipping the tree to your country.

According to a study done by the New York Times, you need to reuse your artificial Christmas tree 10 to 20 years to minimize its impact on the environment.

Real Christmas Trees

Much like the fruit and vegetables we eat, real Christmas trees are grown as a crop with the purpose of being cut down. To help keep their business going and make sure they always have healthy trees, Christmas tree farmers typically plant 4 or 5 new trees for every one they cut.

It takes around 8 to 10 years for trees to reach an acceptable height for selling. During that time, they provide a habitat for wildlife. Plus, the soil they’re growing in can actually absorb about 10 times as much carbon as the actual tree.

To help make your real Christmas tree even more environmentally friendly, try to buy from your local tree farm instead of a corner lot or big box store.

When you buy from a local tree farm, you’re cutting back on carbon emissions from long-distance transportation and contributing to your local economy.

When the holidays are over, you have several ways you can recycle your Christmas tree.

If you have the capabilities, mulch the tree on your property so you can use it in your garden and flower beds when spring comes. This creates a sustainable and closed-loop cycle that makes as little waste as possible.

If that’s not an option, check with your local community. Many towns and cities have a curbside tree recycling program. When they collect the tree, they’ll turn it into mulch or compost to use around the community.

Live Christmas Trees

If you really want to make your Christmas tree as eco-friendly as possible, buy one with an attached root ball. When Christmas is over, you can replant the tree and let it continue to absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, and provide a home for animals.

If you plan on buying a living tree, look for one that has a well-developed root ball and appears lively and healthy. Also, water it well through the holidays. This will give it the best chance for survival after it’s replanted.

Additionally, if you live in a cold climate, dig the hole for the tree in the fall before the ground freezes and cover it with mulch. By doing so, the hole will be ready when it’s time to plant your tree.

The Bottom Line on Eco-Friendly Christmas Trees

OK, that’s a lot of information to digest. At the end of the day, here’s the bottom line in the eco-friendly Christmas tree debate.

Getting a live Christmas tree with the root ball attached is by far the most eco-friendly Christmas tree.

If you can’t get a tree with an attached root ball, getting a live Christmas tree is more eco-friendly than getting an artificial Christmas tree.

If you need to get an artificial Christmas tree, look for one that’s made in the country you live in, not made from PVC, and use it for at least 20 years.

Plus, don’t forget to check out these outstanding posts that can help you make your holiday as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible:

More Eco-Friendly Holiday Tips

If you enjoyed this article about the most eco-friendly Christmas tree, make sure you check out some of our other popular posts so you can make all of your holidays more sustainable:

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